Short description

Introduction to the ethnographic investigation of educational settings and institutions (villages, neighborhoods, families, peer groups, schools, etc.). Attention will be paid to the policy issues this kind of investigation can address.

Longer description

This course explores educative processes in what have been known as “community” settings. We will question what we are to mean when we talk both about "education" and about "community" ethnographically--that is when we focus on the details of human practical action. The exploration proceeds through a review and critique of recent research and theorizing about education as collective practice within the strongly framed local settings of everyday life. We will focus on the problematics of "community" and "practice" as it relates to the problematics of education as a total process.

Various settings will be explored (villages, neighborhoods, families, peer groups, museums, as well as schools), in the United States and across the world.


Education and development must be local, “community” processes even as they are also global ones. The course builds on this intuition as continuing work in anthropology and sociology have critiqued it. The concept of community is too powerful as an ideological tool in America to be yielded carelessly. It also indexes something that is too real to be cast aside. The recent interest in practice, agency, resistance, etc., must make us pay close attention to the actual settings where human beings conduct their lives in direct contact with each other. These are the settings often explored as “communities” in a long tradition of work that remains fully contemporary when properly handled. We will be particularly concerned with the collective efforts to transform difficult conditions–efforts which, in and of themselves, are to be considered educational. We will do so using the ethnographic methods that are most likely to reveal the collective and relentless effort to educate.

Further information

Final note

This is not a course in ethnographic methods. If you are interested in such a course, consider ITSF5000.